29 July 2005

Cock. And also Tail.

Went out for drinks with an old friend tonight. I got to the bar before he did, so I grabbed the only barstool available and ordered myself a cocktail. What a satisfying word to say that is: "cocktail." Really rolls right off the tongue quite nicely. Mmmmm... cocktail.

So anyway, enough of the cock and the tail. I found myself sitting next to a lovely gal who was avidly watching the Red Sox game. Shortly after I got my drink, Olerud hit a very uncharacteristic grand slam, and she pretty much went nuts, a form of behavior that I highly endorse when grand slams are hit. So I went nuts along with her, jumping up and down and screaming and whatnot.

We sat back down, trying to retain what little dignity we had left, and she remarked on how nice it was to meet a similarly enthusiastic female Red Sox fan. In the spirit of being Fair and Just, I disclosed that I was indeed a true-blue baseball fan, and therefore grand salamis are always to be celebrated, but that I was a supporter of The Dark Side.

I'm a Yankees fan.

She took it in stride, pulling her purse closer to her chest while warily eyeing the bar for a less dangerous bar stooll. But I won her over by singing the praises of Francona, and expressing my admiration for Papi, and also of Fenway, which is truly one of the greatest places ever. If ever there was a shrine to baseball, that is it.

As I have asserted in the past, I'm a baseball fan first. I've been to Cooperstown a few times. I named my cat after Satchel Paige. I just finished reading the biography of Lou Gehrig.

I know, I know. This whole Yankees/Red Sox thing. Well, let me tell you, folks, it has gotten completely out of hand. Yankees and Red Sox fans have a lot in common. I find that we are all the most passionate, well-informed, true fans of the game in the universe.

My girlfriend at the bar and I were discussing this very salient point when my date showed up. I made my goodbyes to the Sox fan, she hugged me goodbye, and said "Go Sox!"

To which I responded "Go Yankees!"

And then we made out.

Can't we all just get along?

28 July 2005

Brass in pocket

I was a band geek when I was a kid, and a pretty damn good one at that. By which I mean it was equally true to refer to me as both Band Member and Geek. I played the euphonium, which if you're not a member of the Glorious and Resplendent Order of the Band Geek, looks like this.

It's about half the size of a tuba. Sounds kind of like a mellow trombone, or like a smooth brass cello.

I had a pretty good natural ability at the thing, too. So much so that my mother, broke as she was, bought me a brand new Yamaha euphonium when I was a freshman in high school, mainly because I had recently become the youngest member of the local conservatory orchestra. I never really considered playing it for a living -- I knew perfectly well I didn't have the chops -- or the dedication -- for that. But I always swore I would not grow up to be one of those adults who used to play an instrument. Nothing, I thought at the time, would be lamer.

Then when I was a sophomore in college, still playing the horn and even paying for private lessons at the college a half an hour away because my college didn't have a low brass instructor, my beautiful Yamaha euphonium got stolen out of the storage area in the basement of my dorm.

I won't say I was devastated, because I don't remember feeling that way. At that time in my life I had an alarmingly cavalier attitude toward my possessions, and was prone to losing just about everything I owned. (This is why I only have two mix tapes from my youth -- luckily, one is my favorite.)

At the time, I liked to think that this attitude was due to my occupying a higher spiritual plane of non-materialism, but really I was just irresponsible.

So when my Yamaha went missing, I was upset, but I got over it very quickly. Those lessons were expensive, after all, and that half-hour bus ride was a pain in my ass.

It wasn't until years later that the dreams began.

At first, there would just be someone in the background of a dream playing a euphonium. Then someone walking down the street, playing the euphonium. This pattern progressed over the years until I reached the point where I would dream about getting the chance to play a euphonium just about once a month.

More recently, it's appeared as an antidote to my odd anxiety dreams. I'll be in the midst of a full-blown anxiety dream, and suddenly I'll walk into a room full of fifty or a hundred people playing the euphonium, and one of them will shove one into my hands and urge me to play. When I had another one of those dreams two nights ago, I woke up and said OK! OK! OK! I'll look on EBay for a fucking euphonium.

True to my word, I did, and I found one and bid on it. And today I won that auction, and for a remarkably low price.

The odd thing is that it is the exact same make and model as my stolen horn from long ago. Hell, for all I know it is the exact same horn, much-traveled. I'll think I'll make an effort to start believing that.

So in about a week I'll have my horn back, for the first time in fifteen years. Clearly, my psyche has been strongly urging me to reunite with it for some time.

26 July 2005

These little town blues

In the latest episode of a seemingly endless series, I seem to be somewhat strapped of cash these days. Waifish in the wallet. Touchy with the tender. Light on the liquid. If you catch my drift.

Doubtless, this stems from working in the overwhelmingly remunerative field of the performing arts, supplemented by the astonishing riches that are to be had as a freelance editor. Back up all this cash with my rather tenuous grasp on accounting, and girl, you are in biznezz!

Yeah, I'm kinda broke, by my standards. But that hasn't stopped me from booking a scandalously extravagant trip to NYC for four days (and three wild, crazy nights!) in August, a trip that includes staying at a rather swanky midtown Manhattan hotel, excellent seats at TWO consecutive Yankee games, and the strong possibility of seeing a performance of Avenue Q on Broadway.

See, the thing is, I have an awesome family.

I did not by any means grow up at any economic level above lower middle class. Think: the living room from Roseanne. That was my house, only with more Newfoundland hair, and all their attendant odors. I was never able to have junior-high sleepovers, because of the dog-stench.

But then I charmed my way into a very good school, and got myself nicely, and quite liberally, educated. Then I worked a bunch, went to grad school, worked a bunch more, and saved a little bit of money. Then I mortgaged my soul to buy a nightclub, idealistically believing in the healing and income-generating power of live music, and then I lost all my savings and sold the nightclub at cost.

Then I moved back to my hometown.

While I was busy doing all of this, some members of my family rose in the world. And I apparently rose in their esteem. So a couple of them like to occasionally shower me with the sweet, sweet gift of travel, which they know is all I really desire.

And when they called to ask what I might like for my birthday (did I mention I recently had a birthday?), I hesitantly mentioned my growing cabin fever and wanderlust and craving for bright lights and all-night everything.

So they are sending me to New York City. Because they rock. And because I have somehow convinced them that I roll.

23 July 2005

Rock lobster

Quite some time ago, I mentioned that my lame-o neighbors had decorated their lawn with lobster traps that have bright red plastic lobsters in them. Apparently they are unaware that lobsters only turn red when they have been boiled or steamed to perfection.

I dunno, maybe they do know this, and this lawn art is a highly subtle and ironic commentary on global warming and the fate of our oceans as a result.

But I doubt it.

Anyway, I noticed today that he had replaced the weathered, sun-bleached lobsters that had been languishing in the lobster pots (and that actually more closely resembled real living lobsters) with fresh and new red plastic lobsters, so I had to document this offensive lawn decor.

I'm still considering sneaking out late at night and accessorizing them with little plastic bibs, lemon wedges, and handi-wipes. Would that be so wrong?

21 July 2005

Miss Personality

Well, holy crap.

It seems that the local press has taken quite a shine to me, and wants to profile me in next week's award-winning rag. I have an idea who is behind this, but I haven't yet confirmed it. Whatever, it'll be fun, as long as I photograph well that day. Which I'm sure I won't.

At least I have two full days to practice my life story -- by which I mean edit it, of course. God knows, left to my own devices I would only tell the most embarrassing stories about myself, casting myself in the worst possible light.

Kind of like what I do here.

So now I have to start rehearsing the PG version of me, the one that follows a plausible narrative arc.

Yeah, right. I'll get right to work on that.

Really, what would you say about yourself, given a fifteen-minute interview, a couple of snaps, and a column on the second page of your local rag?

16 July 2005

Cuts like a knife

I've been doing a lot of painting recently (walls and such, not watercolor landscapes) and I'm singularly awful at it, but when friends have a big project like painting lots of walls, they tend not to be too picky about your skill set.

It turns out I didn't even know how to properly hold a paint brush, as one of my friends helpfully pointed out at about two in the morning last night. I didn't realize there was such a thing as "choking up" on a paintbrush, but there you are. Also, you are apparently supposed to "lay it on" in a cross-hatch fashion, instead of in the nice, steady, straight lines I had been using.

Learn something new everyday.

It kind of reminded me of the first job I had as a cook in a restaurant. As is often the case when you are a rookie cook (a cookie?) they set me up with a cutting board and a knife somewhere out of the way, gave me a fifty-pound bag of Spanish onions, and told me to start dicing.

If you don't already know, there is a specific way to dice onions, involving at least five different ways to slice off your fingers and thumbs. The most important part is how you hold the fingers on the hand that is holding the onion. I always called it "The Claw." The idea is to not splay your fingers out perpendicular to the knife blade. Done properly, The Claw will ensure that you only scrape off a sliver of flesh, rather than an entire digit.

I was unfamiliar with The Claw on my first day on the job at La Trattoria. I had ineptly diced a few onions by the time the sous chef wandered past me and noticed how close to needing a trip to the Emergency Room I was, and he hollered out for one of his minions to get over here and show this girl how to use a knife!

I was so mortified that, in future years, when I had attained the level of sous chef, I made sure to put each rookie cook under my supervision through the same mortifying ordeal. Sure, it's a form of hazing, but a form that might save you a pint of blood. Rites of passage, and all that.

Then, in my final year of cooking professionally (assuming I don't get sucked back into the profession again by unforeseen circumstances, like Hell freezing over), I was happily telling one of my minions how to emulsify a vinaigrette when ...SLICE.

Oh yeah, right through the fingernail on my middle finger. The blood, oh, the blood. And it was just before the beginning of the dinner rush, and I was the sous chef (i.e., in charge of the kitchen -- the head chef mostly just swanned around the dining room, soaking up praise and red wine), and the nearest emergency room was an hour away. So I wrapped as much gauze as I could find around my now stunted finger, duct-taped it in place, and crammed a latex glove over it.

Two years later, my fingernail has still not properly grown back. It's nothing anyone else would notice, but I know it's there. Even though I no longer cook for a living (did I already mention Thank God and Hallelulia?) , it's a lesson worth repeating.

Never grow complacent about The Claw.

And always choke up on your paintbrush. I guess.

11 July 2005

Night swimming

Things are looking up. I got the money that was missing from my last paycheck today, so I can actually celebrate my birthday in some style. Now, some of my readers have, I feel, implied that I have mentioned my birthday overly much in my last few posts both here and elsewhere, and that I might be perceived to be ramming it down people's throats in an attempt to get more attention, presents, and gratuitous make-out sessions.

To these unfair accusations I can only respond:

Birthday birthday birthday birthday birthday birthday lalalalalalalala thursday Bastille Day thursday Bastille Day thursday Bastille Day birthday birthday birthday make-out make-out make-out yay!

I certainly hope that clears things up.

The other reason things are looking up is because I finally made it to the beach today, and ooooh girl, was it goooood. Of course, I went at the offically correct time for natives and year-rounders to show their faces at the beach -- suppertime. Not only do you not have to obtain "permission" from whatever snotty little UMASS sorority chicks they have guarding the gates, inspecting your car for a sticker, but you also avoid 99.98% of the teeming hordes, as they have all repaired to their "cottages" to wash the sand and seaweed out of their crotches, change clothes, and go pay way too much money for fried clams and cole slaw down the street.

So, more beach for me. Also, the water tends to be deliciously warm at this hour, having been simmering in the hot July sun all day long.

So I strolled to an isolated spot on my favorite beach after work today, dropped towel, keys, and trou, and walked straight into the slowly rolling swells. God, just thinking about it makes me want to get right back in the water. Maybe sans suit, this time.

Jesus, it has been far too long since I did that. If memory serves (and I wish to God it would serve something useful once in a while, like canapes or shrimp cocktail), the last time I went skinny dipping was in a mountain stream, about a year after graduating from college. I was out with a guy I had had a crush on for a full year and a half (and I'm highly skilled at carrying torches for extended periods of time, believe me). It wasn't so much of a date as a bike ride that I had finally conned him into going on with me.

Our area had been going through a painfully jungle-humid phase that summer, and we worked together in a restaurant kitchen, regularly sweating through our chef jackets about five minutes after we put them on. It was horrifically brutal, and I had suggested a ride into the hills after a rare day-shift one afternoon, to maybe get some breezes blowing in our faces and then maybe coast downhill to a swimming hole.

By the time we arrived at the secluded swimming hole we had aimed for -- which was fully equipped, mind you, with a waterfall and a naturally-carved, 6-foot deep limestone pool at the base of the falls -- the sun was well into setting. We each waded around for a while, being happy and silent, just kind of wandering off into our own cool, wet, satisfied orbits for about an hour. Then we both had somehow wandered far enough away from each other that we each, apparently simultaneously, decided it was safe enough and dark enough to strip off our clothes and feel that amazing, deeply cool water all over our skins.

Dark, yes. Safe, no.

Predictably, we drifted back toward the deep pool, and each other. Later, we dried each other off and lay down on the damp grass and watched the meteors flicker across the sky.

It has been far, far too long since I did that.

08 July 2005

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad

The way the morning starts decides the day.

This just can't be true, because my day started out great, with some delicious dreams that I was able to stay in bed a little longer than usual to enjoy today, because I was asked to come into work late. Don't have to ask me twice, so I lolled about with my best boycat for an extra hour, eventually falling back asleep.

I woke to hear Matt say Cops are here, something about a check.

Believe me, nothing will get your pulse pounding faster than hearing something like that, fresh out of a deep sleep involving a languid, delicious dream or three.

Turns out what he really said was Your Pop's here, he's on the deck.

This, this was the true portent for the day.

So I chased some cold water down my face, smoothed down my hilarious bedhead, and invited Dad in for tea. We had a lovely visit, and I believed that the equilibrium of the day had been re-established. Dad left in due time for me to make a trip to the bank to deposit my paycheck before getting to work, so I pulled it out of the envelope to endorse it before leaving the house, since I can never find a pen in my car.

The heart that had so recently been pounding suddenly stopped briefly... when I saw half my usual pay on the check. I raced in to work to find out WHAT THE FUCK, and discovered it was due to an accounting error that absolutely, positively couldn't be fixed for another two weeks. My household had already been planning on two weeks of ramen noodles and gruel (yes, cats included, everyone has to do their part), and now it looked like we couldn't even afford that.

Thus began the more nightmarish portion of the day, in which my already tightened belt threatened to strangle me, and things were said, and tears were shed, and clothing was rend... ed.

Then I was already red-eyed and fragile, so I couldn't concentrate on much of anything except my inner mantra of now I'm fucked, now I'm really fucked, so I gave myself an assignment that required leaving the premises and driving around for a bit, so I could be alone and cry and pound my steering wheel and holler GODDAMMIT!!! every few minutes.

I should mention that one particular reason, though by no means the only one, for all the goddammitting is that my birthday is this week, and this truly meant there would be no Christmas in Whoville. At. All.

Then I reminded myself that it couldn't possibly be worse than when I owed six months in back rent to the landlord of the nightclub I owned, and lived daily with the constant gnawing pit of dread in my stomach that today would be the day I would go to work to find a "condemned" sign on the front doors of the 150-year-old brick warehouse it was housed in, or that the soundboard would get fried during a show thanks to the frequent electrical storms in the area, or simply that the beer and liquor sales from the night before would finally not be enough to make three register drawers for tonight's show...

And all of those things did happen at one point or another, but that's the point. When I was a fancy-pants live-music nightclub owner in my twenties I somehow overcame such unbelievable stress, and such unbelievable bills, and oh my christ the crippling debt... and let's not forget that awful stench of stale beer and cigarettes...

that two weeks of ramen noodles and inexpensive evenings at home with cats sounds pretty wildly okay in comparison.

And then I composed myself and went back to work. And was told that the problem was solved, or at least would be solved on Monday, when I would get paid.


Later, one of my idols from my youth snapped at me during an evening meeting and this caused me to cry in my car again, but I think that was just a residual, and totally not his fault. So I came straight home and made a huge batch of chicken noodle soup and you know what? That shit really works.

03 July 2005

Felt up

Almost exactly a year ago, I was helping out a friend on a big project that involved the construction of about 17 thousand (it seemed) red felt doohickeys. Actually, it was only about 500, but each one had to be individually cut out, rolled up, and sewn together, and it took a long time and kind of made me a little batty for a couple of weeks.

I again found myself cutting felt for the same friend this month for a different project, this time a trillion little green whatsits. This was a little less crazy-inducing, as there was no needle work involved. Threading a needle 500 times in two weeks is enough to make anyone a little tweaky.

I took the bolt of green felt home one night recently, thinking it would be fun to work on the blasted little things while watching the ballgame. I figured, if things got exciting in a good way, I could toss little scraps of green felt up in the air in celebration. If things got exciting in a bad way, I could intimidate the other team by standing in front of the TV and waving my shiny silver scissors at the screen.

What? I personally believe that what I do in my living room affects the outcome of the game. If you've never once pulled on a rally cap, or worn a lucky shirt to an important game (or date), or maybe not watched a particular play because you felt that if you watched it wouldn't go well, then you just suck and I don't want to know you anyway.

Although in my case my superstitions might be a bit extreme, because I always watch baseball games on DVR, so as to avoid all those nassssty commercials, precious. And also so I can hit pause whenever Mike Mussina gets that sexy, intense look of concentration on his face just before a pitch.

So, given my recording habits, the events that I'm trying to affect have already happened, sometimes hours ago. Interestingly, my best friend E. was a philosophy major in college, and she tells me that there's a name for this belief. She wrote her thesis on Backward Causation, the belief that you can affect past events with present actions. If you've ever walked out of an exam, praying to the deity of your choice that you passed, that's a form of backward causation. By praying, you're trying to ensure that you passed.

I personally think this is an experiment worth trying, because what do you have to lose? Worst case scenario, you wave sharp pointy things at the television screen in the privacy of your own home, and your team loses anyway (or makes some jackass move like tossing a batting helmet at an umpire, thus confirming the whole entire universe's bad opinion of your team, yeah, thanks, jackass).

And this endeavor can be extended to other, more regrettable past events, like that time that I unquestioningly took a pill that a "friend" of mine passed me, or when I wore that dress that I loved to a friend's wedding that totally didn't suit me, but will now live on in infamy in countless photographs, or the fact that I never made a move on that green-eyed guy when I was nineteen, and I totally should have.

Maybe if I pray/meditate/wave my scissors around really hard, I can have those moments back. Or maybe I should just toss all these green felt leaves in the air and give a great big whoop of joy that I don't have more moments of regret to stew over.